The Wyoming State Museum is restoring an elaborately beaded
American Indian horse mask to prepare it for public display within
the next year.
Mandy Langfald, curator of collections
at the museum in Cheyenne, said Wednesday that the Lakota Sioux
mask dates to between 1897 and 1910. She said its one of fewer
than 50 such historic masks that survive from American Indian tribes
around the West.
They started, they believe, when
the Spanish conquistadors came through, because they had armor on
their horses, Langfald said of the Indians practice
of making masks for their own horses.
The mask, made of buffalo hide, is fully
covered with tiny venetian beads and features designs of both American
flags and stars. Langfald said the mask is unusual because its
so large, designed to extend far down a horses neck.
The museum acquired the mask in 1958.
Langfald said it had belonged to Wyoming native John Shangreaux.
According to information Langfald provided,
Shangreaux was born at Fort Laramie in the 1850s to Mary Smoke,
daughter of the Oglala Sioux chief Old Smoke. After serving as a
scout for the Indian fighter Gen. George Crook, Shangreaux worked
as an interpreter for Buffalo Bills Wild West Show. He later
settled as a trader on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
He died in 1926.
Langfald said its possible that
Shangreaux was given the horse mask, possibly with a horse, by the
Sioux as part of the custom of giving elaborate gifts. She said
such masks went out of fashion in the Great Depression, which hit
Indian populations even harder than the rest of the country.
The mask is featured in a 2006 book, American
Indian Horse Masks, which states that it might have been used
in the first Oglala Fourth of July parade in 1898.
Langfald recently secured a $700 grant
from The Denver Foundation to help cover the estimated $1,500 mask
restoration. She said Judy Greenfield, a conservator in Denver,
will do the work.
According to a statement from the museum,
the mask is suffering from loose beadwork, a loose lining and other
loose elements. Once its restored, Langfald said the museum
intends to display it prominently in the Barber Native American
Shangreauxs descendants occasionally
come to the museum to examine the mask and other American Indian
items from his collection, Langfald said.